Governor Focuses on Energy, Economy

Economics and energy dominated the Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' State of the State message Monday night.

Sebelius entered the House chamber under the cloud of an economic crisis, but she says Kansans have the character to pull through.

"In that regard, the state of our state has never been stronger," she said.

Sebelius says she'll offer a plan for balancing the 2009 and 2010 budgets without raising taxes and without backing off commitments to education. She didn't offer details how she'd do it, except to say her budget recommendations for 2009 and 2010 "will make significant reductions in most agencies while trying to protect essential services."

"The budget also eliminates programs, closes facilities and freezes new hires," Sebelius said.

Despite the crisis, Sebelius says the state must keep an eye toward the future - specifically, wind energy. She says it's not just about energy, but the economy.

"In fulfilling our potential, we can attract billions of investment dollars for both transmission lines and the wind farms; we can create thousands of new jobs; and Kansas landowners will see the benefit of millions of dollars of lease payments for their wind," Sebelius said.

Sebelius lauded the cooperative effort that won the new National Bio and Agro Defense Facility for Kansas. She says that same cooperation is already at work in business, energy and transportation task forces that will see us through the tough times.

One other major focus of the Governor's speech was creating a Comprehensive Cancer Center. She says the state will apply for National Cancer Institute designation in 2011. If successful, she says it could generate $1.3 billion a year annually and create nearly 10,000 new jobs within a decade.

Republicans criticized Sebelius for lacking details on how she'd address a budget deficit of $186 million in the current fiscal year, and that could grow to $1 billion by 2010. Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt says the Governor painted a picture of false hope that it would be painless for people, when he believes it will present a harsh reality. House Speaker Mike O'Neal says he's disappointed that Sebelius didn't take action sooner, since the state has been aware of the issue for some time.

Sebelius will present her detailed budget plans Tuesday.